A stormwater dream for Bangalore...

Transforming SWDs as water fronts and urban spaces

A stormwater dream for Bangalore...

Trapped in a faltering remodelling exercise, Bangalore’s sewage-filled Storm Water Drains (SWDs) might appear perennially incapable of ending the city’s flooding woes.

Bangalore’s much talked about Rain Water Harvesting might be headed to mortality in its infancy. But what if the SWDs underwent a revolutionary transformation. Rid of its sewage, what if these drains had a complete makeover as rain water storage spaces and beautiful waterfronts.

The suggestion might appear fanciful, even utterly unattainable. But urban architects, who have designed and developed breathtaking private landscapes right here in Bangalore, are convinced that this idea is eminently doable. Here’s one fleeting glimpse of what our stinking, clogged and heavily encroached SWDs could look like, with a little bit of design, a bit of science, some purpose and loads of vision!

First, the reality: Vast stretches of the city’s 856 kms of SWD are veritable stink pits, a disastrous concoction of rain water and sewage flowing in unchecked, and flowing out untreated into the lakes. The first design change would be to ensure that the trunk sewers are on either side of the SWD, the manholes inside the drains are removed, and all the sewage lines now opening illegally into the SWD are linked to these sewers. The idea, clearly, is to completely block sewage flow into the drains.

Once this hugely challenging task is achieved, weirs could be ereced inside the SWDs to act as barriers for the free-flowing rain water. This traps the water in pools of about 20 ft and three meter depth, allowing only the excess water to the lakes. “If the encroachments on either side of the drain are cleared and the clearance of 20 to 30ft are developed, Bangalore could get a badly missed waterfront,” visualises urban architect, Naresh Narasimhan.

The area on either side of the SWD thus developed, could become great public spaces. The edges could be energised as open spaces, areas where people could walk, socialise and even hold cultural events. Several European, and Asian cities have achieved this remarkable transformation of their once dirty and diseased drains.

Not rocket science

But the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), tasked with SWD remodelling could accomplish only 40 per cent of the work between 2005 and 2009. Eventually the Palike had to totally halt the work, unable to find any contractor willing to take up the challenges involved. The engineers are now stuck with a survey to mark the canal width and encroachments. “We have completed 320 kms so far,” informed a top Palike official.

Urban designers are not impressed. As one of them noted, “Remodelling of drains is not rocket science. It is a big scam, involving fund diversion, improper planning and design. Let them first put the entire SWD network under one agency. You can’t have the BBMP handle the drains while BWSSB maintain the sewer lines. The system is one.”

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